If you are a college student, you have an opportunity to start planning your finances for the beginning of your adult life and in preparation for future responsibilities. Because now you will be the one who manages the money for spending on things like food, rent, utilities, etc.
Take advantage of this phase of life, where financial commitments are limited, to practice and develop skills that allow you to manage your money, on topics such as budgeting, use of credit and savings for your retirement.
Also, for parents, the financial independence of their children can be an opportunity to re-evaluate their financial situation. Perhaps they may be able to save more for their retirement or make higher payments on their mortgage. It’s also an excellent time to reinforce with their children that money is okay to speak about and offer advice.
To get started, let’s look at some tips that help you manage your money.
A great place to start is by capturing your income and your expenses. Having a monthly snapshot of your inputs and outputs helps you stay organized. Also, you can expect the fixed expenses like food, books, or utilities to take higher priority. Having them in writing, in a notebook, allows you to set goals and keep them in mind to pay them.
For those who live off campus, paying the rent of an apartment with lots of amenities could “eat” most of their budget. The idea is to choose an apartment that truly meets your needs without compromising other priority expenses. Ideally, the student should allocate a maximum of 25% of his general budget to the rent.
Do not be despondent if the result is not very encouraging or if you have few things to budget for, this habit will give you the basis for managing your money for the rest of your life.
It’s possible that in your budget, you will see that the expenses can exceed the income. Faced with this situation, there are two options: cut costs or increase income. The first one requires setting priorities. Books or a new pair of shoes? Party or set aside money for food?
It is a good time to exercise a principle known as delayed satisfaction. An attitude that leads you to have patience with the things you want to get them later, giving greater importance to those you need.
In the second option, it will depend on your situation. If your class schedule allows you can opt for a part-time job or home (give tutorials, job’s transcriptions, etc.).
Look at spending strategies with those fixed expenses such as buying supplies, transportation or food. Evaluate if it is worth buying the book or it is better to consult it in the library, to photocopy it or acquire it among several classmates.
Cook food instead of eating out, get up earlier and use public transportation instead of an Uber.
Budgeting the Fun can be as important as calculating the food expenses. Having a good time is not bad, the bad thing is not to budget it.
Credit with Precaution
Many colleges have agreements with financial institutions that give their students access to bank accounts without commissions, or even to credit cards.
Credit at college is not all bad because it is an excellent opportunity to generate credit history, but it should be used responsibly. Ideally, if a student should use it, all balances should be paid off in full at the end of the month.
If You Work, Save
Many employers offer retirement plans (401K) with a matched contributions. This would be unusual for College students only working part-time.
Ideally, a student should start saving as soon as possible to take advantage of the power of compound interest. The sooner you start saving; the more generous your retirement will be. But more importantly the quicker you can reach that point.
Bank accounts are a necessary tool that will help you control, spending and saving money when you need it but also if you have debts, you must pay them on time. It’s always best to pay them in full too. Living beyond your means is not a habit you want to fall into.
Paying your bills on time will allow you to have an excellent credit rating. A good credit rating will allow you to access all kinds of financial advantages.
Keeping proper records will help you be prepared if you need to prove that you have completely cleared an account or been a victim of identity theft. For this, always take safeguards to protect your identity.
Once you have your budget organized, you can use applications to make it simpler keep the budget balanced.
There are many, easy to use and understand mobile apps that sync with your bank account and automatically categorize your expenses into different items that you create.
These applications are simple tools that usually contain a calculator and automation that teaches you how to cut down on small expenses like coffee and impulse purchases, which can boost your long-term savings. This can be a good option for having control at your fingertip on your mobile phone.
The sooner any young person can organize their finances the better. Use your youth to your advantage. You won’t regret it.
Brian is a Dad, husband, and an IT professional by trade. A Personal Finance Blogger since 2013. Who, with his family, has successfully paid off over $100K worth of consumer debt. Now that Brian is debt-free, his mission is to help his three children prepare for their financial lives and educate others to achieved financial success. Brian is involved in his local community. As a Financial Committee Chair with the Board of Education of his local school district, he has helped successfully launch a K-12 financial literacy program in a six thousand student district.